On Friday, Nana Patekar will be seen in Satish Rajwade’s Marathi movie Aapla Manus as acerbic police officer Maruti Nagargoje, who upturns a couple’s life when he investigates them over a suicide attempt by the family’s patriarch.
The Ajay Devgn production marks Patekar’s 40th year as an actor. He made his debut in the 1978 film Gaman. The veteran performer described Nagargoje in a recent interview as “a man of few words”. But not all characters played by the Padma Shri awardee have been quite as taciturn.
Belonging to a different universe from Nagargoje is Pratap, Patekar’s character in the 1994 blockbuster Krantiveer. Pratap spouts monologues on demand. Despite the hysteria and eccentricity, Mehul Kumar’s movie was one of the biggest hits of Patekar’s career, one that won him several honours and also sealed his place on an elite list of celebrities who inspire memes and parody videos.
There are three key elements in Krantiveer: good, evil and Nana Patekar.
At the start, we are introduced to Pratap, an adarsh balak who starts his day with the sunrise and seeks the blessings of his mother and deceased father before stepping out of the house. But this is a movie in which things escalate quickly. Within the first five minutes, we have a big reveal and a heart attack.
Pratap is no angel: he has been skipping school to gamble and smoke with his friends. The crushing betrayal induces a cardiac arrest in Pratap’s grandfather. Banished from his home and village, Pratap ends up being adopted by the landlord of a settlement called Laxmi Nagar (Paresh Rawal).
What follows over an unwieldy two-and-a-half hours are a series of convoluted plot twists that seem to exist only as opportunities for Pratap and his self-righteous journalist friend Megha aka Kalamwali bai (Dimple Kapadia) to launch into diatribes. Between them, the pair covers everything from poverty and income inequality to corruption and communalism.
One such memorable tirade comes after crime lord (Danny Denzongpa), with the support of local politicians, orchestrates communal riots and sets homes in Laxmi Nagar ablaze so that his builder associate can make an elite residential complex on the land.
As the fire threatens to fan the flames of strife in the settlement, residents convene for a meeting. Pratap smashes his forefinger with a stone four times. He then grabs another man’s hand and destroys his finger too. Rubbing the blood from both hands into his palm, Pratap hollers, “Yeh Musalmaan ka khoon, yeh Hindu ka khoon! Bata iss mein Musalman ka kaunsa Hindu ka kaunsa, bata!”
A simple nick would have sufficed to prove the same point – Hindu or Muslim, we are all the same – but relevant advice cloaked in ample melodrama is the very essence of Krantiveer.
Patekar sneers and jeers to cheers throughout the movie. Krantiveer is set in a world in which the government, police and judiciary are in thrall to the rich and the powerful. The bad guys are as evil as they come, and the good ones are at their mercy. Between these extremes is the abrasive and politically incorrect Pratap, whose unique brand of morals makes him the only one capable of taking on the mantle of the titular revolutionary.
Perhaps to diffuse the high-decibel tension, the movie also features Atul Agnihotri and Mamta Kulkarni, who make routine appearances to dance around trees. But Krantiveer is, ultimately, a Nana Patekar show. Any importance given to any other character is purely coincidental.